Toma Belev and people close to him are buying property and are awarded procurement contracts through organizations, allegedly registered for public benefit
Toma Belev has turned the Association of Parks in Bulgaria (APB) that he illegally controls into a private company, states the daily newspaper Trud.
More than 15 years ago APB was registered for public benefit, but instead it has been buying property, participating in procurement procedures and initiating ridiculous law suits against the state.
According to information from the Property Register for the past 11 years the NGO has acquired thousands of square meters of land in the regions of Ruse, Veliko Tarnovo, Razgrad and Sliven. Some of the land is rented out by APB.
While involved in his private business, Toma Belev was also a civil servant in his capacity of Director of Vitosha Nature Park, a position he held from 1999 to 2012.
The business ventures of the “ecologist” are not limited to the activities of APB. From 2000 to 2014 he was a member of the Management Board of another private “environmental” organization, Green Balkans, that bought a little bit more than 100 ha of land in coastal Dobrudzha.
Through these two private NGOs Toma Belev has also been awarded procurement contracts. Eco-consortia with the participation of Green Balkans have collected more than 1 million BGN from subcontracted activities in Balgarka Nature Park.
Apart from using the private associations and Vitosha Nature Park for profit, Belev also makes money as a physical person. He participated in the development of the Management Plan of Pirin National Park financed by a Swiss program. Belev is the author of the whole chapter on Norms and Regimes.
The political ambitions of Belev date from 2007 when “the ecologist” found time to also campaign for Member of the EU Parliament as a representative of the Green Party. In this period the formation was a part of the Triple Coalition.
From then on, the “conservationist” has rarely missed to participate in elections. Now he is in the list of candidates for members of the Municipal Council in Sofia of the red-blue-green coalition Democratic Bulgaria. However, a number of facts are missing from the official political CV of the forester.
The usurpation of APB
The Association of Parks in Bulgaria was founded in 2003 in the form of a non-governmental organization (NGO). In effect, this is a private parallel structure of the Executive Forest Agency and the Park Directorates, because APB was established by eight directorates of state nature parks in their capacity of legal persons. They voted Belev for Chair, since at that time he was the director of Vitosha Natural Park.
According to the Act on non-profit legal entities and the Statute of APB, a General Meeting is held every 5 years to vote for a new Management Board and Chair. This has not been done in 2008, as required by law. A General Meeting has not been held in 2013 either.
Meanwhile in 2012 Belev was removed from the director’s post of Vitosha Nature Park after a contest. This automatically meant losing the right to represent APB, because until then he had been its chair in his capacity of director.
In 2014, two years after he was removed from the director’s position at Vitosha Nature Park, Toma Belev organized a General Meeting and changed the Statute. He included 15 physical persons in the management board, all of them close to him. And so, without being a park director, Belev remained the Chair of the organization thanks to the votes of his people. This General Meeting and its decisions were annulled by the Sofia City Court and Sofia Court of Appeals.
In December 2017 the Sofia Court of Appeals pronounced its definitive decision that Belev is illegitimately holding the position. Regardless of this decision “the ecologist” still holds the position today and refuses to go.
The big bite
The reason for this persistence is simple – a lot of money is at stake. In 2012, when Belev scored third in the competition for Director of Vitosha Nature Park, award procedures were carried out under a project titled “Connecting nature conservancy with sustainable development in rural areas” financed with 4 790 000 Franks or 8 million BGN by the Bulgarian-Swiss Cooperation Program. The project was to be implemented for four years. By remaining in control of APB, Toma Belev gained access to the huge amount of money.
Furthermore the “ecologist” used the association to bring proceedings against the Ministry of Environment and Water (MEW) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forests (MAFF).
The paradox is that MEW is the principal of the National Parks, while MAFF is the principal of the Nature Parks. And so, the Park Directorates in APB are suing the two institutions of which they are a part, i.e. they are suing themselves.
Belev and “the ecologists” use the law suits to twist the arms of the country and different investors, until their claims are recognized.
The lands by the sea
In 2005 the “ecologists” received 9 million BGN to map the protected zones in Natura 2000.
The main “cartographers” were Green Balkans with Toma Belev in the Management Board and the Bulgarian branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) headed by his wife Veselina Kavrakova.
For a very short time 35% of the territory of the country was included in Natura 2000. More than 1 000 000 owners of 700 000 properties were affected. The “ecologists” included industrial plants, quarries, dumps and cemeteries in Natura 2000.
Meanwhile, to allegedly protect the population of the red-breasted goose, Green Balkans allocated several hundred thousand levs to buy 103.4 ha of land in Coastal Dobrudzha. Afterwards, using the European funds, they appropriated almost 10 million BGN “to protect the red-breasted goose.”
Toma Belev is always among the candidates in all sorts of elections. In 2007 he got 672 votes as a candidate for Member of the European Parliament representing the Green Party.
Regardless of his unsuccessful start, Belev’s ambitions in politics are still alive today. At the last parliamentary elections in 2017 he attempted to become a member of the Parliament representing the now renamed party, The Greens, in coalition with Yes, Bulgaria of Hristo Ivanov-Boykikev and the collapsed DEOS. Belev tried his luck again in this year’s elections for European Parliament, this time with Democratic Bulgaria. In it DEOS is replaced by Democrats for Strong Bulgaria of Atanas Atanasov.
Now the time for local elections is approaching. Toma Belev, of course, is a candidate. He wants to be a member of the Municipal Council in Sofia.
If he gets elected, he will probably teach the residents of the capital how to reduce the conservation cause to personal business.